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“Meets All Conditions” – Fiction by Kalpana Negi

The Voice - Barnett Newman, 1950
The Voice – Barnett Newman, 1950

A woman’s obsessive search for purity drives  “Meets All Conditions,”   Kalpana Negi‘s intriguingly surreal short fiction from our Winter 2016 issue.

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THE ORDER OF THE THINGS WAS TO MAINTAIN UTMOST PURITY. The obsession so pathological, neurotic, crazy and fanatic and infused with a hyperbole stretched so far that it laughed at its own ridiculousness. Purity: A non-existing black hole, milk curdled with sourness and floating in whey—undefined, disbanded, scattered. A bad joke constructed to collapse on a passer-by. That’s why when she was told she needed a “pure” box, Gita simply threw a fit. She slapped that woman Mala on the face, pulled her from the cushy chair and dragged her out of the house.

“I swear I can help you!” But Mala was standing on the porch by now. As a woman, that word exploded a bomb within Gita, its hidden connotations angered her. But it had to be found, the pure box, it was important for her survival now. The dew drops of reasoning cooled her head and she thought about it calmly.

“Do you mean anything that can be touched, felt or seen?” But it was not the box she was talking about.

“That’s right.” Mala was back again on Gita’s invitation.

Because the bigger problem than finding a pure box for it was to know whether what she wanted to sell was eligible at all. A person’s voice could certainly not be touched, felt or seen. Not in orthodox ways at least.

“Of course it can be!” Mala pressed Gita’s hand, as if trying to squeeze a nod out of her. “Watch this.” She made a small ringlet with her lips and emitted a sound. What started as a hiss and developed into a whistle became a roar that could not be likened to any sound that existed on the planet. Like a flute that starts off easy and loses its temper. That sound broke a few glasses, invited bursts of loud and nasty comments from the neighbors and proved its point. “You see what I mean?”

But Gita was unconvinced. A wave sneaks into your brain through a tiny, inverted, snugly fitted loudspeaker in the ear canal and unsettles sleeping toddler-like tiny hair. Result? Voices you hear. How can a thing like that be touched, felt or seen? Gita continued to argue within herself and out. “But you know, I would say, even sorrow, happiness and anger are more tangible than voice. What did you sell?” Gita picked up a biscuit and bit on it with her slightly protruded teeth, wanting to really hear than be heard.


“Very wise.”

“Well, it was in high demand back then. Now everyone has it and no one wants it. They even have software.”

“Does hatred need a ‘pure’ box too?”

“No.” Of course not. Hatred can’t be infected with love. Hatred, like poison, turns everything into itself.

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